LAKE PLACID — Champagne was the drink of choice Friday evening at the Cottage Cafe as local residents toasted Andrew Weibrecht’s bronze medal finish in the men’s Super-G at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
A group of about 50 people, including staff and employees of the Cottage and the Mirror Lake Inn, which are owned by Ed and Lisa Weibrecht, Andrew’s parents, gathered to watch the race on TV.
“Service stopped,” said Mary Jane Lawrence, the Inn’s marketing director. “We stopped cooking. We stopped making drinks. We stopped eating. Everybody was watching his run and we were really excited at how well he skied.”
Weibrecht was the third skier down the mountain, so the crowd at the Cottage had to wait to find out just how good he had skied.
“As each skier came down and it became more and more clear that he was going to place in the top three, and it got more and more exciting,” Lawrence said.
When the last skier crossed the finish, giving Weibrecht the bronze, people went crazy, Lawrence said.
“There were cheers, clapping and bell ringing,” she said. “We’re all so incredibly excited. It’s unbelievable. Everybody’s drinking champagne.”
Jim Johnston and Guy Middleton still hadn’t seen the run Friday evening, but they were watching the times live on a laptop, in the parking lot of the West Mountain Ski Area in Glens Falls with a group of other coaches at the Junior 3 (J-3) state championships.
“As each one clicked off, we knew he was getting closer and closer,” Johnston said.
Johnston, a coach of the New York Ski Educational Foundation, coached Weibrecht at Whiteface Mountain for five years, from ages 7 through 12, in the J-5 and J-4 levels.
“He was a top skier from the start,” Johnston said. “He’s won at every level that he’s skied at,” including being the state champion a couple times at the J-5 and J-4 levels.
Weibrecht attended Northwood School for two years before being named to the U.S. Ski Team.
“When he was at Northwood, he was winning international races,” said Middleton, Alpine ski program director at Northwood.
Weibrecht continued as a state champion at the J-3 level, and won the Trofeo Topolino, an international children’s ski race in Trent, Italy, when he was 14. Also that year, he went to Whistler for the first time, where he won the giant slalom and the slalom in the Whistler Cup Race.
“When the announcement was made that Vancouver and Whistler were going to be the host to the 2010 Olympics, I knew right then it was going to be exciting if he made the team, because he’d had success there,” Johnston said. “He proved it wasn’t a fluke He deserved to be there, and put it down the hill. It was destined that the Olympics were there, and it was destined that he had success, too. It’s fantastic.”
Reached by cell phone at the Whistler resort in Vancouver, Ed Weibrecht described his son’s accomplishment as “wonderful.”
“I had tears in my eyes,” he said. “I told his girlfriend on the chairlift yesterday that I really thought he would medal today, but I asked her not to say anything. But I really believed he would.”
Weibrecht said he was extremely proud of Andrew. He said he gave him a hug and a kiss, and told him he was “very, very happy for him.”
“He’s worked very hard all his life for this,” Weibrecht said. “I’m very happy for him that he’s been able to accomplish his dream and do as well as he has.”
Weibrecht said a large contingent of family, friends and Lake Placid residents were on hand to watch the race, and celebrate Andrew’s bronze medal finish.
Weibrecht started skiing at Whiteface when he was five, and started racing with NYSEF when he was 10, according to a prepared statement from the state Olympic Regional Development Authority.
“From day one, Andrew showed great promise as a ski racer and today everyone in our program should feel proud to be a part of what he was able to achieve,” Horst Weber, Weibrecht’s NYSEF coach, said in the ORDA statement.
“It’s gratifying to have someone like Andrew grow up on the slopes of Whiteface and become an Olympic medalist,” said ORDA president/CEO Ted Blazer. “Andrew is an incredibly hard working athlete who has never given up and all of us are extremely proud of him.”
Weibrecht started in the World Cup circuit in 2006, and this is his first Olympic Winter Games.
Johnston said skiers have to train for up to 15 or 16 hours a day to get up to the level of the world’s best skiers.
“People think skiers show up and ski down the hill,” Johnston said. “It’s a lot of hard work, and that kid has put in the hard work to get where he is right now.”
Lake Placid native Andrew Weibrecht speeds down the course Friday during the men’s Super-G at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia.
(AP Photo — Luca Bruno)